Esper to recuse himself from JEDI decisions due to son's employment with IBM

By Justin Doubleday / October 22, 2019 at 4:17 PM

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has recused himself from making decisions on the Pentagon's controversial Joint Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure program due to his son's employment with IBM.

The award of the JEDI contract has been held up by Esper’s review of the program initiated shortly after he was confirmed as defense secretary in August. The review has included "informational briefings" on the Pentagon's cloud computing plans, according to Chief Pentagon Spokesman Jonathan Hoffman.

"Although not legally required to, he has removed himself from participating in any decision making following the information meetings, due to his adult son's employment with one of the original contract applicants," Hoffman said in a statement released today.

A LinkedIn account connected to Esper’s son, Luke, lists him as a "digital strategy consultant" for IBM.

Hoffman said that "out of an abundance of caution to avoid any concerns regarding impartiality," Esper has delegated decisions on the JEDI cloud program to Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist.

"The JEDI procurement will continue to move to selection through the normal acquisition process run by career acquisition professionals," he said.

IBM originally bid on the JEDI contract last October. The company also protested the terms of the contract with the Government Accountability Office. GAO ultimately dismissed IBM’s protest when a similar protest from Oracle America went to the Court of Federal Claims.

DOD has since determined only Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure are able to meet the requirements of the potential 10-year, $10 billion contract for global cloud services across all classification levels. The Pentagon did not provide any update on when the JEDI contract award will move forward.